New Everton boss Sean Dyche’s reign began with a shock 1-0 victory over Premier League leaders Arsenal as James Tarkowski’s second-half header saw the Toffees win their first game since October and move out of the relegation zone on Saturday.
The defeat left Arsenal with a five-point lead over second-placed Manchester City, who visit Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday, with the top two having both now played 20 games.
Everton looked a much-improved unit in Dyche’s first game in charge after replacing Frank Lampard and they troubled Arsenal throughout, coming close to opening the scoring in the first half through Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Abdoulaye Doucoure.
Tarkowski finally broke the deadlock to score his first goal for the hosts on the hour with a header from a corner by fellow ex-Burnley man Dwight McNeil which flew past Aaron Ramsdale.
Tarkowski, who Dyche signed when he was at Burnley, said he hoped the win could help change the prospects for Everton, who had only won three league games all season before Saturday.
“It has been tough for us and the fans and for all the staff in the club. Hopefully this is the turning point for the club, there is a lot of talent here,” he told BT Sport.
“It’s taken me a while, I need to score more. What a great time to do it and a great day. It’s back to work on Monday and we crack on.
“We’ve lacked that little bit of grit at times and that’s what the fans want. We’ve seen what it’s all about today.”
It was the first time Everton had beaten a top-of-the table side in 11 years, with their last such win coming in January 2012 against Manchester City.
Toffees winger McNeil added: “We know how good they (Arsenal) are as a team, but we also know how good we are as a team as well with all the chances we had.”
Arsenal did pose problems, with Bukayo Saka forcing a goal-line clearance from Tarkowski after a volley in the first half and Eddie Nketiah blasting an effort over from close range.
Deadline day signing Jorginho made his Gunners debut a minute before Everton’s goal but the Italy midfielder could not do enough to change his side’s fortunes.
They continued to toil to the end of the six minutes of added time with a period of relentless attacking but Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford was able to keep the visitors at bay.
Everton, who had only been separated from bottom spot by goal difference, are now 17th, a point above the drop zone but having played a game more than the teams below them.